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Spanish soccer star forced to apologize over “blackface” controversy

To coincide with Kings Day, former FC Barcelona player Andrés Iniesta shared a picture of himself with men in costume as the Three Kings, one of whom was wearing black make-up

Iniesta (c) with his family in the photo that caused controversy.
Iniesta (c) with his family in the photo that caused controversy. Instagram

Former Barcelona FC soccer player Andrés Iniesta has had to apologize after sharing a photo that prompted accusations of racism against him on social media. In the photo, which was posted on Instagram by the man who scored Spain’s World Cup-winning goal, he is pictured with several people in costume as the Three Wise Men and their pages. Balthazar and his page are both white men with their faces painted black, which prompted the controversy.

The 34-year-old released a statement via the AFP news agency saying that he did not want “to upset anyone by publishing the photo,” and that he wanted to “apologize to anyone who may have been offended.”

Kings Day is traditionally celebrated in Spain with a street parade on January 5 of the Three Wise Men, and gifts left behind for children to open on the morning of January 6. Over the years it has been common for white Spaniards to paint their faces black to take on the role of Balthazar and his page, but in recent years the practice has become more and more frowned upon – particularly outside of Spain.

In 2016 the mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, brought an end to the practice of “blackface,” and began hiring a black person to play Balthazar at the parade, which is broadcast all over Spain.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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